Matatu Mngumi Shehe is 37 and has lived in Mkwaja all her life. She is married with five children, two boys and three girls. Her coastal village is located at the northern end of Saadani National Park and contains around 215 households. Most people earn at least part of their livelihood through fishing but Shehe owns her own small business cooking and selling food.
Shehe recently became the Chair of the PECC committee in Mkwaja and is keen to be involved in the project in order to help resolve some of the day to day problems that people face in living so close to a national park. As she told Peter Millanga [Kesho Trust project Coordinator], “From the time I was approached to be part of PECC I got so much interested after learning that we are getting a place to talk about the problems we face.” An example for her of those problems was that one of her nephews was recently in trouble because he was caught fishing in an area near to Buyuni village which is part of the marine component of the Park. He was taken to court in Pangani and as a result had to pay a 50,000/- (US$ 31) fine – a rather significant sum by Mkwaja standards given that a small business owner in Mkwaja might make about 90,000/- per month.
This is an on-going issue for villages like Mkwaja that rely on fishing. The Park boundaries in the ocean are not marked. Although people try to avoid straying into the Park the tides, currents and winds can make it difficult for fishermen to avoid drifting into protected areas. If they are caught they face having their equipment confiscated or, like Shehe’s nephew end up in court.
Despite the challenges Shehe is optimistic that situations like this can be avoided in the future. Working through the newly formed PECC committee Shehe, alongside nine other members hopes to be able to reduce the tension that exists between the village and the National Park. Through better awareness of the Park and the benefits that can be gained from protecting their environment Shehe hopes that the relationship will improve.
The Kesho Trust is supporting Shehe’s Mkwaja committee and those in five other communities in the area [Buyuni, Saadani, Mkange, Gonogo and Matipwili] to learn more about how to live productively alongside Saadani National Park and to bring the Park and the villagers closer together so that as many of the on-going problems as possible can be resolved.